Three contested Los Angeles Unified School District board seats are up for a vote in the March 3 Los Angeles city primary election.
KPCC surveyed the candidates for their thoughts and priorities on key issues facing the district. Here are candidate Filiberto Gonzalez' responses. (For information on other school board candidates as well as City Council candidates, visit KPCC's Los Angeles 2015 voter guide.)
1. What's the first issue you will tackle while in office?
Will work with my colleagues to identify waste and duplicative administrative expenses that do not have an impact in the classroom. I believe we can cut or freeze 10% from the non-instruction administration budget in the short-term. These funds will go back to the classroom and to fully staff schools (e.g. bring back librarians, etc.).
This first issue is part of my overarching goal to put students' needs first. My two oldest daughters attend our neighborhood LAUSD elementary school; I know firsthand that more often than not LAUSD is unwelcoming to its stakeholders. I will work with my colleagues to make student-centered decisions and create a new tone that is much friendlier toward our most important partners in academic achievement: parents and teachers.
2. What qualities will you look for in hiring the next superintendent?
The next superintendent should come from outside LAUSD. Over the last two decades, LAUSD has both promoted from within and picked an outsider. While each group produced mixed results, qualified candidates who have come from within have learned bad habits from an administrative culture that too often puts its own interest before those of students. Today, we have a school district in crisis; now more than ever, we need an independent leader who can help turn the page on the corrosive politics that have consumed the District for far too long.
In terms of their qualities, I will look for someone in the mold of former superintendent and outsider, Gov. Roy Romer, which means a leader with a proven record in executive management, the gravitas to command the attention of stakeholders with diverse views, and the integrity to be an honest broker with all sides in a debate.
3. Do you support charter school expansion?
No. While I do not begrudge charter school parents for the choices they have made, I believe that in most cases they have fled their local public school rather than embraced charters.
The best way to prevent a two-tier public education system is to build up our existing public schools and ensure they give all students a real opportunity at the American Dream.
4. Do you support the iPad program?
Absolutely not. It was a mistake and ill-conceived from the very beginning. As was noted in the report by the U.S. Department of Education last month, the Common Core Technology Project (iPad program) lacked "established metrics of success" and "was difficult to show the impact of the investment." The decisions that precipitated the eventual doom of CCTP have also sparked an investigation by the FBI, which illustrate the depth of the failure in leadership for this $1.3 billion project.
$800 million of the project's expenses were earmarked for infrastructure upgrades at each of LAUSD's 900 schools. The use of voter-approved bond money to increase bandwidth and provide reliable and robust WiFi for any future technology project is a legitimate expense.
5. What priorities would you like to see reflected in next year's budget? Please be as specific as possible.
The current budget is more than $7 billion. You would never know it based on what is happening in the classroom. My budget priorities will reflect my focus on preparing all students for competitiveness in the 21st century global economy. To this end, I will work to:
1. Increase teacher pay to a rate that is commensurate with their responsibility to our students and society. I will work to increase teacher starting salary at $65,000, and $100,000 for model teachers who have served for 7 years or more. In the wake of Vergara, this budget priority is justified now more than ever, and will help ensure that our public schools attract and retain the best qualified candidates.
2. Reduce class size, which is arguably the most reliable method for increasing student achievement across all socioeconomic groups.
3. Proceed with the upgrades to technological infrastructure at each school to ensure all students have access to a robust and reliable school-based Internet.